Cold Weather Increases Risks of Impaction Colic in Horses

The weather has turned drastically colder in just the last few days on Delmarva and snow has coated the ground in New Castle and Kent counties.  Horse owners should be watching their animals carefully for the warning signs of impaction colic.  Impaction colics are typically more common in the winter as horses do not consume as much water when it is cold or when the temperature of their water is cold.  Dry feed material slows down in the digestive tract and can become stuck or impacted in several locations in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.  Places where the horse’s intestines fold upon itself (flexures) and decrease in size  are common locations for impactions to occur.

Monitoring how much water horses are consuming as well as manure production, can help a horse owner know when to be concerned about the possibility of an impaction colic as signs and symptoms of an impaction colic can be more subtle then other types and more easily missed if you aren’t paying close attention.  Keeping horses stalled and therefore restricting movement as we tend to do when the weather is cold or snowy, can also affect motility or movement of feedstuffs through the GI tract.

Offering horses water that is slightly warmed as well as water that is flavored with some type of electrolyte or even simple drink mix can help increase water consumption.  I have a senior mare at home that is prone to impaction colics.  We always have strawberry lemonade powdered drink mix on hand in our barn cabinet as we discovered many years ago during an impaction colic episode that she loves that flavor and will drink that flavored water readily.  Having salt available for free choice consumption or adding a small amount to a horses daily grain ration can also help to increase a horse’s appetite for water.

For more information on impaction colic and hydration in horses, please visit the following:

For more information on winter water for horses, read our older post:





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